Yes, it doesn’t matter if you’re a street merchant flogging your wares to people passing by, or a tradesman going from house to house, you can take card payments with your phone. There are a lot of options on the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Here are 6 that are worthy of your consideration.
The Square Reader consists of a couple inches of white plastic. It plugs into the headphone socket of an iOS or Android device and allows anyone in the US, Canada, or Japan to accept card payments through their smartphone or tablet. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?
It sounds too good to be true. You get a free reader, there are no joining fees, no monthly subscription payments, and the fees are the same for both large and small merchants. No matter how you look at it, Square is pretty cool. So how does it work, and is there a catch?
Well, it’s pretty simple. Users swipe their card whenever they make a payment. You can choose between digital, paper, and text receipts, and customers sign for purchases right on the device using the Android app.
Sadly, it doesn’t accept chip-and-pin or contactless payments. The fees may also be unpalatable for some, with Square taking 2.75% of each transaction.
Square is king of card processing in the US, but what about elsewhere? Well, if you’re based in Europe or Brazil, look no further than PayLeven.
Their offering consists of an app (available for Android, from the Amazon store) and a chip-and-pin card reader. Unlike Square, this isn’t free. You can pick one up from anywhere between £45 and £60.
Like Square, there’s no monthly subscription, and you don’t have to sign up to a restrictive contract. Rather, you pay a fee as a percentage of each transaction.
This ranges depending on how many payments you take per month. Less than £2,500? You’ll be charged an eye-watering 2.75%. However, if you’re doing more than £7,500 per month in business, that drops down to a nicer 1.50%.
At first glance, there’s very little to differentiate between iZettle and PayLeven. But look a bit closer, and you’ll start noticing some key differences.
Firstly, they’re based in Sweden and operate under Swedish legal jurisdiction. This shouldn’t necessarily impact your day-to-day usage of the service, but there’s a couple of things to note. Firstly, as a seller, you agree in the terms and conditions to settle any dispute and conflicts with iZettle in Sweden, under Swedish law.
For consumers, it’s a little different. I read the UK terms and conditions, and a Google translated copy of the German terms of conditions. For consumers, it seems any arbitration or dispute resolution must be done in the country where the purchase was made.
Like PayLeven, you have to pay for your card reader, which is charged in the UK at a flat rate of £59, and supports both chip-and-pin and magstripe.
Similarly, customers pay less in fees contingent on how many transactions they make. In the UK, anything under £2,000 is charged at a 2.75% rate, whilst anything over £13,000 is charged at 1.5%.
However, where iZettle differentiate itself is in its value-added features. Take, for example, its webapp. This allows users to track their sales over time, as well as key business metrics. It’s almost a fully-featured accountancy package.
And then there’s their mobile app. Available for iOS and Android, this can best be described as a point-of-sale system in an app, allowing you to take both card and cash payments and feed them into the webapp so that you still get those great metrics.
iZettle is available in several European countries, in addition to Brazil and Mexico.
Everybody knows Paypal.
If you’ve ever bought or sold on eBay, you’ve used it. For better or for worse, it’s the default standard for making payments online. But how does their card reader offering stand up in light of stiff competition from iZettle and Square?
Well, it’s worth noting that Paypal Here in the US and Paypal Here in the UK are two entirely different products.
Paypal Here US is based around a swipe-only card reader available for iOS and Android. You can get this for free from Paypal or purchase it for $15 from Staples or Office Depot. Should you take the latter choice, Paypal will refund you your $15. This means whatever you do, you don’t lose out.
But in the UK, Paypal Here is based around a chip-and-pin reader that’s vastly more sophisticated than the US-only swipe-reader. As a result, UK customers have to pay for their card readers, which cost an extortionate £69.95 in the UK. Shipping is included.
When you swipe a customer’s card in the US, Paypal take a flat 2.70% of the pie. UK customers pay a little bit more at 2.75%. That’s fairly standard across the board.
So, what do you get with Paypal that you don’t get with Square?
Simply put, integration with Paypal. From paying your freelancers, to purchasing business expenses with a Paypal-branded MasterCard, you can quite happily operate as a business using just this one service.
Amazon Local Register
You probably don’t want to use their phones, but do you want to use their credit card processing service?
Amazon Local Register (US only) consists of a swipe-only card reader ($10, with the $10 refunded in waived processing fees) and an app [No Longer Available].
I say “selection”, but what I really mean is the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and S5 phones, in addition to a handful of Fire tablets. To Amazon’s credit, they will let you use Local Register on other devices, but they make no promises as to if it’ll work.
So, why should you use Amazon Local Register over Paypal or Square? Well, the most compelling reason is the significantly lower fees. Amazon take a slightly smaller 2.5% of each transaction. They also don’t charge for chargebacks or refunds, and you can accept international cards without incurring any extra costs.
They also have a compelling range of peripherals, including receipt printers, cash drawers, and stands. You could quite easily replace your existing EPOS system with Amazon Local Register, without skimping on any features. And it’d probably be cheaper, too.
The largest downside to this service is the overwhelmingly negative reviews on both the Android and iOS apps, receiving only an average of 2 out of 5 stars for both.
Capital One Spark Pay
Capital One is one of the biggest financial corporations in the world. So it makes sense they’ve got their own card-processing service. Meet Spark Pay.
Much like Square, Paypal Here (US), and Amazon Local Register, this is a card reader and app combo, with the reader coming free. But what makes Spark Pay different from the herd is their lower fees.
There are two plans users can sign up for. Users on their Go (read: free) plan pay no monthly fees, and swipes are charged at 2.7%. But, if you expect to take a lot of card payments, the Pro plan will be incredibly interesting to you.
This attracts a monthly fee of $9.95 per month. But this comes with drastically lower fees, with only 1.95% in fees per swipe.
To sweeten the pot even further, Capital One is running an offer where you get a $50 rebate after swiping $5,000 in the first 3 months. If you process a lot of transactions, you really can’t go wrong with Spark Pay.
Processing Cards Has Never Been Easier
If you’re in the US, your options are incredible. Square, Amazon, Paypal, and Capital One each have incredibly compelling options. On price alone, I can’t recommend Amazon and Capital One enough.
In the UK, things are a bit samey. No matter what you choose, you’re still going to be paying relatively high fees, and an upfront cost for a card reader. PayLeaven stands out as the most cost efficient option, but not by much.
Are you a small business owner? Do you accept cards with your Android device? What do you use? I want to hear about it. Drop me a comment in the box below and we’ll chat.
Photo Credits: Old Square Reader, New Square Reader (Stephen Yeargin)
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